Consistency. Discipline. Focus. Commitment. These are the words I think of when I think of goals, growth, and success. Some people believe in magic pills and hacks to short-cut their way to success and goals. I'm going to tell you . . . there's no magic pill and there's no skipping over the hard work to get the results you want. You need to stay dedicated and disciplined to get lasting results. If you don't put in the effort and energy to get what you want, you will always get what you got. Why? Perhaps it's negative self-talk or limiting beliefs holding you back from going after everything you want in life. The only way to get what you want is to work for it, there's no leprechaun or genie waiting to grant you your wishes.
If you want something bad enough, you will do anything to make that dream become a reality. In my honest opinion, if things are just handed to you, you won't feel the satisfaction of working hard for something that you wanted. No one was handing out Bachelor degrees, teaching credentials, or Master's degrees when I decided to become a special education teacher. It was my dream career, I had to do the heavy lifting. I had to go to class, do the work, and stay committed to my goal. And when setbacks come, which they will; you jump right back on course. Something very important to remember when this happens is to not beat yourself up for falling off track. My life has changed a lot since my post graduate degree days and my goals are different. My goals revolve around being committed to living a clean, balanced, active, and healthy life. When you do something consistently, it becomes a habit, a habit becomes routine, and then before you know it, it's just part of your daily life. I call them my "non-negotiables." There are things that I do daily without fail; it doesn't matter if I'm traveling or if I'm at home. Since I've prioritized these important habits in my life, I have seen the changes and the results of my dedicated actions.
Most people give up on goals or resolutions because it becomes difficult and it may be taking more time than expected to see results. Nothing worth doing is easy. But if you want success, you must be consistent. I've found it necessary to keep asking myself, "Does this get me closer to my goal?" If not, I don't do it, or at least I understand the consequences of doing something that won't get me closer to my goal. It's hard to stay healthy, it's hard to be obese. You pick your hard.
Now, thinking about yoga and the benefits of having a consistent practice. I'm not talking about a once or twice a week practice, but daily practice (which doesn't always mean asana.) This is where Yoga philosophy and the Yoga Sutras come in to remind us that if we want change, real lasting change . . .we must be consistent in our efforts. Whatever habit or behavior modification you are try to implement; meditation, asana, drinking more water, exercising, quitting drinking/smoking . . . you must remain dedicated and focused on the goal. Results don't show up overnight. Progress is slow and steady (which always wins the race.) There is no fast track to enlightenment or Nirvana. One of my favorite Yoga Sutras is 1.14: Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break, and with enthusiasm. This sutra reminds us, yoga practitioners, that we need to practice for a long time (which depends on how much effort and focus we put into our practice,) consistently, (consistently enough where practice is a habit and would be more difficult to skip than to just do it,) and we practice from a place of love and inspiration, knowing we will receive benefits from this practice. This is abhyasa; practicing consistently, dedicated, repeated action over a long period of time.
Yoga begins to transform us when we are dedicated. Change won't happen if we only go to the studio once a week. It needs to be part of our routine and engrained in how we choose to show up in the world. This is how we live our yoga. Those small daily habits create long lasting change. Tapas is what happens while we are striving for our goal. We burn away impurities (bad habits), excuses, and our spiritual growth begins to take place because we have chosen to challenge ourselves. Tapas strengthens our will by testing us and after we have passed that test, we have strength (third chakra- will power) as a result. Think about this, if you want to go to a 7am yoga class, it will be difficult to wake up early if you've gone out all night and drank your face off. Priorities will begin to shift because of your commitment to your goal. Tapas allows us to clear away negative self-talk and limiting beliefs about ourselves. We see how our stories keep us stuck and when we come face to face with them we have two choices: believe the story and continue our false narrative or we write a new story that includes our ability to overcome challenges. When we face challenges, the kinds that scare us . . . public speaking, sharing our "shameful" stories, or conquering a fear; we learn more about ourselves. We learn we are more capable than we thought we were. The challenge of cultivating a new healthy habit will present us with self-doubt, struggle, mental anguish, and pain (tapas,) but we overcome the struggle. Essentially, tapas leads us to self-study and inquiry (svadhyaya) and our view of ourselves changes.
For many years, I was afraid of challenging myself in certain areas due to fear of failure. When I started to make small incremental changes and actually saw results, I realized I was more capable than I thought I was. I actually surprised myself with my ability to stay committed to a goal that wasn't short-term. Wherever you are on your journey, time will pass regardless, make the choice to stay focused, committed, disciplined, and consistent in your daily habits. I've never regretted a workout or yoga session, only the ones I've skipped.
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